Monday, 26 November 2012

Rohingya tents destroyed in Sittwe

Reports were received about refugee tents being destroyed in Sittwe. I have recorded all the information I have about this here.

Tweets From Aung Aung on 25th November

Email from Aung Aung 26th November Morning

"In Sittwe, there are 80,000 refugees. Nearly 40,000 got place in the camps, the rest are living around the other villages which weren't burnt during the June violence, some of them are living with their relatives, but nearly 26,000 built tents themselves and lived there. Yesterday [24-25th November] all those tents were destroyed, so those people need urgent shelter, there is the cold season arriving now and if they can't get shelter soon, I don't know what will happen; children, pregnant and old people's lives are in danger." communication received from @aungaungsittwe on 26th November

Chat Communication with Aung Aung 26th November Afternoon

me: i need to ask you about the tents
that were destroyed
 Aung:  yes
 me:  do you know where exactly this was? some journalists are asking
and are you sure they were all destroyed?
some of the photos you sent were on 25th November, just yesterday, and they were not destroyed - maybe a few were but not all of them
 Aung:  I just called my friends, they said most of them already destroyed, the rest tomorrow will destroyed,
 me:  ok
can you tweet this?
 Aung:  They asked them to destroy
 me:  ok, so they asked the Rohingya to take down their tents?
and they said if they are not gone they will destroy them?
 me:  who told them to take down the tents? the NaSaKa? or the police? or who?
 Aung:  NaSaKa
 me:  can you give the exact location of any of these sites?
 Aung:  tents in Thakkay Byin& Budua Del have already destroyed, tomorrow,they will destroyed the tents in  Missiri Del, Dabaing, Thechaung of Sittwe
Rohingya in the tents were told, NaSaKa would provide camps
but they have only 10 camps empty, and there is no sign to build new camps
 Aung:  They r worry about shelter and food
 Aung:  My friend said he asked one of NaSaKa officer what is their plan for those people, officer told him, "I don't know"
he asked " who knows"
Officer answered President Thein Sein

Photos sent via Aung Aung

These were some of the Rohingya makeshift camps around Sittwe, being constructed on 13th November 2012, that have now reportedly been destroyed.

The following photos were taken on 25th November.

Please read this poem about the Rohingya

Poem for the Rohingya

The Rohingya

Morning child opens mouth and gasps
Not at the beauty of the sun
Arching above, royally radiant
Due to the sight of flamed forest
Frightening screams of family
Running for their existence
Chased by gun toting monsters
Faces framed by long standing
Hatred of otherness

The child's screams wakes
The mother,thin malnourished
A face distorted by night terrors
Instinctively her arms stretch,comfort
Holds tight, picks child up
To run, as fast as able to
Escape the monsters grasp

Other parents sprint too
With their precious cargo
To try and reach sanctuary
But legs are weak and can't outrun
The bulletts that rage and lacerate
Speedier than a fleeing child
More die as the world shrugs
Turns away and Pilate like
Wash their unraised hands.

by William Jones

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Desperate Plea to Obama from a Rohingya Refugee in Burma

The following letter was received from @aungaungsittwe the only Rohingya refugee tweeting daily updates from the ground in Burma/Myanmar.

Dear President Obama,

I am a refugee; a victim of the Burmese regime and Rakhine authority. I have been writing articles for Tim King of Salem News since June regarding the violence in the Arakan State.

We the Rohingya people welcome you warmly and are highly grateful for your visit to our country; it is essential for the transition to democracy in Burma.

When you were elected the first time, I was one of the happiest people because it signified a new page not only in American history but also in modern historical records, an expansion of the definition of democracy, a model for a multi-cultural society.

After the Second World War, Cold War and other ideological clashes that caused the loss of millions of lives all over the world, natural disasters swept away the lives of millions more and an increase in the world's population saw a thirst for the pure water of peace and justice. Ultra-nationalism, racism, fascism, communism, terrorism, socialism and dictatorship are nowhere welcomed by modern man. The majority of scholars believe that democracy is the best solution for us all.

Increasing populations, advancing technology, shrinking resources, access to information and knowledge plus competing economies now challenge world leaders to solve various problems. It is time now for world leaders to reflect on their capacity regarding world peace and justice.

The United States of America became a single superpower which could lead the world towards globalisation, internationalism and peaceful cooperation. I wish you will be able to give a speech to the world about peace as this coming New Year's greeting.

Burma and Democracy

Every deed results in a consequence and every person should get his or her wages at the end of their work. 'You work we benefit' is a communist mentality.

Before British colonization, Burma had nothing: no proper education system, no suitable communication system, isolated from the rest of the world. When American people were celebrating their 111th year of independence, Burma became a colony of the British. With the help of the British, the Burmese were introduced to the Western concept of democracy.

After independence, Burma became a parliamentary democratic country during which period Burma became like a tiger in the Asian region. But unfortunately, when dictator Ne Win took power, slowly it became one of the poorest countries in the world.

Rohingya and Burma

We the Rohingya, an indigenous group, are treated inhumanely in this country. One would hope at this rare opportunity to highlight some important issues, that I hope may be included as serious negotiation points with the Burmese high ranking officials and decision making bodies within the mission of the United States. Our lives in the Rakhine state are currently unbearable, we are completely helpless human beings. Since I believe the details of the Rohingya situation are already known by US officials, I will simply highlight some points in brief on behalf of my people:

  • Rohingya are not allowed to move freely from one village to another, or one township to another, or one district to another, or from the Rakhine state to the rest of Burma.
  • The government places many restrictions on us to make our lives difficult that would not be accepted anywhere else in the world.
  • All government officials, in particular the Rakhine, are specifically trained to discriminate, single out, oppress, mistreat, mishandle, neglect, overlook, avoid and disregard the Rohingya people. They act with all sorts of totally unacceptable and impatient behaviours,  mistreating people in atrocious ways. These staff are recruited and assigned by tyrannical governors that are still widespread across the region.
  • Such inhuman coordinated motivations humiliate, degrade and frustrate the entire Rohingya population before the eyes of all the other ethnic groups.
  • In regard to movement restrictions, trade and commerce within the Rohingya localities has now reached level zero.
  • Because of land confiscations, many more Rohingya farmers have been made landless and they are now forced to wander about the region.
  • For the last 60 years, consecutive military governments have launched ethnic cleansing operations to remove the Rohinga people.
  • Since the year of 1994 onward, some of the wandering people, who were jobless, homeless, uneducated and hopeless, often forced into criminality, frequently with chronic diseases, were recruited by secret agents who offered improved livelihoods in the Rakhine state.
  • The military not only confiscated land but they also seized cattle and property owned by the Rohingya.
  • The Rohingya were forced to build villages for migratory people and construct buildings such as pagodas, monasteries and roads without any compensation.
  • Due to marriage restrictions, Rohingya people have to face a social penalty and pay fines from time to time. Although there are many ethnicities throughout the Rakhine state and the rest of Burma, no other race is restricted regarding marriage except the Rohingya people in the Rakhine state.

We the Rohingya have been living under the shadow of fear and terror, oppression, exploitation, injustice, unfairness, prejudice, extrajudicial punishment, racial discrimination and other countless inhuman mistreatment,  which are a combination of works from both Rakhine chauvinists and the Union  government, for more than sixty long years in areas such as job employment, opportunities, health care, social work, land check points, steamer and boat ports, mountain passes, airports,  immigration offices, municipal offices, revenue offices, education departments, farmlands, distributions and so on.

Because of more than 6 decades long of oppressive ruling circumstances and regrettably, racially designed ethnic cleansing operations under several banners sponsored by the Burmese successive governments and aided by Rakhine ultra-nationalists, this has resulted in the forced exodus of more than one million Rohingya Muslims who sought refuge outside Burma,  the internal dislocation of at least 2/3 million, and the death of another 100,000 as per the universal declaration of human rights.

Rohingya Love Rakhine Brothers and Sisters  

Whilst Rohingya people have been loving the Rakhine brothers and sisters as their own, few Rakhine nationalists from either part of the state have shown common respect, feelings of love, ample sympathy, communal understanding and equal recognition to the Rohingya people throughout history.  Now it is time for Rakhine nationalists to learn. People such as politicians, historians, scholars, government staff, students, school teachers, open-minded monks and all community relevant dignitaries, must learn how  to  step  closer  to  build  constructive  approaches  as per the advice of international organizations and the dignitaries who have recently paid goodwill visits to Myanmar including the Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and Prime Minister Sheik Hasina of Bangladesh.
Today  the entire  Rohingya  people  are  afraid  of  being  harassed,  physically  tortured, molested, and burned, looted and persecuted, and they fear their villages and belongings being set on fire due to the absence of fair security provided by the Union of the Central Government, where only Rakhine police are  equipped by weapons in the Rohingya populated areas in Rakhine state.

Recent Genocidal Movement Against Rohingya 

Since May 2012,  the Burmese regime and Rakhine State authority have been continuously killing the Rohingya , burning their houses, looting their properties that caused 150,000 IDP refugees, and nearly one million people are now living under a blockade and are facing starvation. The regime implements a new type of terrorism, fascism, and Buddhist ultra-nationalism in the name of the democracy process.

President Thein Sein opposed international humanitarian aids pointing to public desire as his excuse. The word democracy is being misused against democracy. With the votes of 60%, killing the 10% minority becomes legal according to Thein Sein's government.

Save the Rohingya

In the Burmese democratic process, thousands of Rohingya lives, properties, and rights have being sacrificed, and yet the Rohingya issue was the first issue which pushed international human rights activists to put pressure on the regime towards democracy.

President Obama, you have the power of eloquence, intellectual and technical methods to solve this issue easily. As a world leader, I believe you could help resolve this issue and in doing so you would be a role model for the rest of the world.

I personally beg you and your government to save the Rohingya people and help remove racism from Burma, which results in terrible acts both regionally and internationally.

I believe the lives of the Rohingya in Arakan State are as bad as the lives of those in the concentration camps of Hitler. Could you please come and have a look at us?  We believe that your visit could help change the course of world history especially in regards to Southeast Asian regional developments.

Yours Sincerely,
Aung Aung Oo
(location removed for safety)

Copyright notice:  Please share and reprint this letter as you wish.

Please also read my letter to Obama here

Monday, 12 November 2012

Letter to Obama: A Plea for the Rohingya

Monday 12th November

Dear President Obama,

I find myself a human rights activist. I never set out to be one. I just got so sick of seeing injustice in the world I decided to start speaking out and doing what I can to help people which has led me here. I live in the UK. I am also a web developer, which comes in handy when campaigning for justice.

I cried with joy when you were first elected. Inspired like so many others, hopeful that you would bring change to the world. But like many others I also became disillusioned over your first term in office. I knew you had an uphill battle and couldn't change the world over night, but America's lack of support for Palestinian human rights and especially the people of Gaza has been more than disappointing. I cannot understand why Guantanamo continues to exist. And hypocrisy over Bahrain is so upsetting when I see my dear friends suffering daily under a cloud of tear gas on an island run by police thugs, suppressed by a regime you continue to excuse and even support.

Renewed Hope

However, like many others, I'm ready to give you another chance. Yes you are not my president, I don't have a vote, but we all know that the President of the United States has the power to start wars, and sometimes end them. I figure you are less likely to bomb Iran than the other guy, so you would have got my vote. Your tears at your after party talk seemed sincere and touched by heart. We all need hope, its a powerful thing. I have renewed my hope in you.

And I am not the only one who has put their hope in you. So has my Rohingyan friend in Burma. He is somewhere undercover, likely in a refugee camp in Sittwe, bravely gathering information from the ground and keeping a link open with the rest of the world via Twitter @aungaungsittwe He does so at great risk to himself, but he doesn't mind that. He tells me that he doesn't care if he lives or dies, to be dead in Hell he would not mind if he could see his people win their rights.

Green Bananas

I first got to learn about the Rohingya just this Summer. The apparent 'riots' had just begun in June, when a friend contacted me about their plight which she had learnt about through the fabulous grassroots charity Restless Beings based in London . She asked me if I could do something to help her help them, since she knew I was a human rights campaigner. I said if you want me to help, go find a source on the ground from whom we can learn the truth as to what is happening (kind of hoping she wouldn't come back because I really had my hands full with daily atrocities happening in Bahrain). But within a few days she came back with the telephone number of a Rohingya man living in Arakan state. He was a village leader who had been collecting information from all over the area. We interviewed him over a number of calls. He was living in fear, his village had run out of food and they had been eating green bananas, but even the green bananas had run out he told us. Children were dying of starvation. No one dared to leave their homes for fear that they would be killed. We were able to contact the World Food Program and pass on the information as to which areas were in desperate need of food, and they were helpful. But really no-one else was interested in our interviews which told of terrible atrocities that we were so shocked to hear. Amnesty told us they did not want the interview manuscripts as they already had so much information on Myanmar that they couldn't process it fast enough. News channels seemed disbelieving when we tried to report such atrocities were taking place. If your research team are interested to know more about those interviews some of our notes here. One thing of interest to note is that our source stated that the police were burning the Rohingya houses and that suggestions that they were burning their own houses were a complete lie.

Nothing New

Over the following weeks I began to intensively research Burma and the Rohingya in an attempt to get up to speed and understand the problem. I listed some of my research here I was amazed to learn that Genocide Watch had issued a genocide emergency alert of stage 7  (current genocidal massacres) for Myanmar and yet I had heard little to nothing about this in the news. I was also stunned to read a Human Rights Watch report from 2009 that clearly showed the terrible persecution and ethnic cleansing that the Rohingya people had been enduring at the hands of the Burmese government over decades.

It soon became apparent to me that what was happening now was an almost exact repeat of what happened in 1991 when the military Junta burnt thousands of Rohingya homes, killed hundreds and rounded up the rest into camps. It seems the motive then was to clear the land for new economic developments. I guess it was easier then to commit such crimes hidden from sight, without the Internet to worry about. But now we have the Internet, and social media, this becomes more complicated for such evil regimes to carry out their atrocities without getting noticed. Just before the last round of cleansing in June the military went door to door to confiscate digital equipment from the Rohinyga, but they didn't manage to get everything so some photos and video leaked out. This time around before October's houses were burnt the regime was much more thorough with their confiscation operations to prevent any digital leakage, which has resulted in very little new video coverage emerging of the atrocities as they were taking place, despite the wipe out being on an even bigger scale. But in 2012 the military did not need to carry out the violence themselves, as they did in 1991, but instead propaganda was widely distributed to brainwash the Rakhine monks and turn them into a killing machine which would perform tasks on demand, whilst the military stood and watched, and the government wiped their hands of the matter and professed their innocence.

Ethnic Cleansing

Have you ever seen throughout history a people rise up of their own accord, without provocation or planning, to wipe out an entire race from their neighbourhood in a matter of weeks? This is clearly ethnic cleansing from whichever way you look at it. The term genocide will never be accepted because the public will always find this word too abhorrent to accept and the politicians will always fear the legalities of having to act, and one may argue that what is happening to the Rohingya has only recently resulted in hundreds of deaths rather than thousands. My conclusion is that genocide has been in the planning, and social media has brought about raised awareness and international attention that is helping to stop the process before the plan has been fulfilled. However, these people are now hanging on to their future by a thread, with nowhere to go and no-one coming to their aid. 110,000 have now been driven from their homes and close to one million are now facing blockades which are slowly starving them wherever they may be, either displaced or still in their own homes. Look at the manner in which thousands of them were forcibly removed and driven into camps during June.


The Rohingya are now hated by people on all sides who have blatantly declared them as nothing more than viruses that need eradicating. They cannot move to another part of Burma. They have been driven from their homes to live in tents in muddy fields or hiding in boats or on the mountains. They are struggling to get medical assistance, food, clothes and shelter. Neither Bangladesh or Thailand will accept them. Often they try to escape but drown at sea. Hundreds have been arrested never to be seen again. They are denied visits in prison where they have been reported to be suffering from severe torture and often left naked, and even young boys and girls are often arrested. In addition women and girls are frequently taken away to be raped. I compiled a list of recent reports on events in October here:

Economic Developments

When looking at who is behind such crimes I believe it important to consider the history and the context. We can see that the Rohingya have suffered a series of clear serious assaults at the hands of the Burmese regime over a period of decades. A list of them is presented here:  In addition, there are major economic developments planned for this area. It came as no surprise for me to learn that Burma has a new oil and gas pipeline due to open in 2013 to take resources from the Bay of Bengal and also shipped from the Middle East up to China. The pipeline starts in the Arakan state, which is where the Rohingya clearance has been taking place, and passes over to the Kachin state where other human rights violations are also occurring . This document gives a lot of detail regarding the dealings of the oil companies involved : and further information can be found here I also read that India (ONGC) and China (CNPC) were working together on the pipeline, alongside other 'exploration and production' operations taking place in the Sudan and Syria. But it seems not only India and China have a stake in this pipeline, other nations do also. Ban Ki-moon stated that it was a 'win win' situation for everyone. What did he mean by that? This is certainly not a winning situation for the Rohingya, or do they not count?

In addition to the new pipeline, a deep sea port is being built at the port of Sittwe to handle the large oil carrying vessels which will be arriving, and massive development of the Kaladan River is taking place to enable boats to travel from India up to central Burma The impact of the heavy militarisation of the area to assist with these developments can be read about here There is also a fancy new technology development zone to be built in Kyaw Pru on the Northern half of Ramree Island.

This area was recently razed to the ground during the violence and 10,000 people had to flee via boats, many of whom it seems must have drowned at sea because not all made it back to shore. The satellite images of the area were recorded by Human Rights Watch One of my friends who used to work in Burma sent me this observation
'Notice in the first satellite image, the farthest out, there is an airport strip west  of the village area that has the burnt out neighbourhood when seen up close. This destroyed Muslim area is on the NE part of Ramree Island within the special economic zone to support industry, logistics and more. Ch Econ Tech Dev video - 00: 45  4:52, The whitened areas are in the zone.  Look at the video, there are 3 zones for business and then supportive. The Muslim area is in the supportive area.'
Channel Four also recently visited this same area and found that the Muslim population had been 'wiped from the face of the earth'.


Who is Behind it All?

I have read many reports suggesting that the monk Wirathu has been a key player in the violence. Just before the violence started monk Wirathu was reportedly visited by Aung Thaung  who is the Union Solidarity and Development Party’s secretary as well as the Lower House’s Banks and Monetary Development Committee chair, and a man known to be close to former dictator Than Shwe I wonder how much of a stake Than Shwe has in current developments, and question if he isn't still pulling strings behind the scenes? There have been previous calls for him to stand for his crimes before the ICC I read that Than Shwe's leadership over the State Supreme Council ensures that he retains final say over the military and also has the ability to overrule both the cabinet and parliament in 2011, but don't I know if anything has changed since then.

What is clear to me is that planned and well organised ethnic cleansing has been taking place, and with the Arakan state still under military control since the state of emergency took was declared in June, there is no way that this could have happened without military complicity. At best, this violence could have been easily prevented by the military had they so decided. I also understand that the Burmese only care about human rights when it is good for business. The release of Aung San Suu Kyi and her subsequent world tour was we all know to buy political favour, and didn't it work well! Whilst she was dazzling people with her smile the operation to remove the Rohingya began. It was suggested to me that the Burmese idea of democracy is ASSK and the military Junta putting on suits. I believe that was a perfect analysis.

Torture in Prisons

The government may try to blame the violence entirely on the Rakhine Buddhists and hide their own involvement in the matter, but they cannot deny the treatment of the prisoners that they routinely torture in prison. Indeed aren't there still UN and humanitarian workers still in prison, since they became witnesses to the regime crimes? The United Nations must now insist on full access to the prisons, that all political prisoners and aid workers are freed, and without such steps taken how can the West even begin to suggest that this is a reformed regime? The Rohingya are now at serious risk of elimination. Even Thein Sein stated clearly to the UN that he saw their removal as the only solution to the problem.

Future in Your Hands

President Obama your visit to Burma later this month comes at a key moment in time. If business is to take precedence over human rights this will be the last green light that the regime were looking for and they will complete their plan to get rid of their problem without further delay. However if, and only if, the USA lay down the line, that human rights come first, and will not be compromised however great the business deal, then things will change. All rests now on your shoulders Mister President. The future of an entire race. Maybe this meeting will chart the route of future history. Maybe a stand for human rights now will result in the avoidance of the creation of a new and unstoppable Nazi regime. With half of the revenues of the oil pipeline heading the way of the military Junta, and the other half to China, surmounting to many billions of dollars, I dread to think of the future impact of such a regime.

The Rohingya urgently need protection, by an independent peacekeeping force. They need urgent access to aid and medical care. And they need the return of their citizenship which was stolen from them by the dictatorship in 1982 and never returned.

Ethnicity Removed

It has been reported in the media that a new census is taking place in a move towards granting citizenship to the Rohingya. However my Rohingya friend in Sittwe tells me that what is actually happening is that Rohingya are now being tortured into signing that they are Bengali not Rohingya, and some are even tortured in public as a deterrent for others. Those that refuse to sign are being arrested and driven away (clearly for more torture, probably never to be seen again). Just today he told me that people were even arrested and taken away by police from a refugee camp when they refused to sign.

Please do not be blinded by the Burmese government's lies. Please understand the seriousness of doing businesses with the devil. Please make a stand for human rights. Business built on the back of ethnic cleansing can never be acceptable, however great the business. How sad it was to see you personally giving the 'green light' to the USA to invest in Burma immediately following the ethnic cleansing in July and how shocking it was to then see that on the very same day in October that homes were being burnt and thousands of new people chased from their land in, fleeing for their lives, the US Deputy Secretary of the US Department of Treasury Neal S. Wolin was shaking hands and smiling with President Thein Sein over business deals

Genocide: Worse than War

I researched the topic of genocide and found Daniel Goldhagen's truly excellent documentary, 'Genocide: Worse than War' incredibly informative
I learnt through it that genocide is always caused by politics, and I understood that it can be stopped, although it happens over and over again. It takes place as a result of a series of decisions. Please watch this documentary. It is long but is may be the best documentary I have ever seen and if its advice is heeded thousands of future lives, or maybe millions, could be saved. Please let this be your defining moment as a truly great man that stopped a genocide, where many others have failed.

True Hero

For my Rohingya friend Aung in Sittwe, a true hero of this world, you are maybe his last hope. Please don't let him down.

Thank-you for reading. May God grant you wisdom and bring you guidance.

Jamila Hanan
Human Rights Activist, UK

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Rohingya protest in Burma from Sittwe Camp

On Thursday 8th November the previously voiceless Rohingya did an amazing thing and protested from inside a refugee camp in Sittwe, Burma and tweeted their photos for the world to see via @aungaungsittwe. In doing so they joined other protests taking place around the world, led by the UK based charity Restless Beings.

These photos have been emailed from the camp and are available for the media to use freely as they wish. Please help to give these poor people the publicity they desperately need right now. If you need further information or higher resolution photos please email